Many pregnant women worldwide may consume alcohol during pregnancy without really knowing the risk it has on the developing fetus. American research published in 2020, indicates that expectant mothers between the ages of 18 to 44 have seen an increase in alcohol use and binge drinking from 2011 to 2018.
This group of mothers have consumed at least one alcoholic drink in the past 30 days or binge drink; taken in four or more alcoholic drinks in the same period. A Namibian study published in 2019 that focused on the management of fetal alcohol syndrome in the Khomas region, alluded that there’s an alcohol use prevalence of 47% among pregnant women in Namibia and 30% prevalence among Botswana’s pregnant population.
When women consume alcohol leading up to their pregnancy and during the first three months and last few months of the pregnancy, the children are likely to suffer from Fetal Alcohol Syndrome also known as FAS (CDC).
Meaning, these children are likely to be born with lifelong damage to their major organs, which is the heart and the brain, and may have physical deformities as well as suffer from mental disabilities.
Because the alcohol that mothers drink, directly enters the bloodstream of the babies as it crosses the placenta from the mothers’ blood, and therefore the babies are exposed to the same concentration of alcohol as the mothers.
The severity of fetal alcohol syndrome symptoms may vary among children – some may present with learning disabilities and behavioural problems and not necessarily physical deformities and others may be affected in all three domains. Also, psychiatric disorders, such as ADHD and conduct disorder are common among children born with FAS.
• Distinctive facial features, including
small eyes, an exceptionally thin upper
lip, a short, upturned nose, and a
smooth skin surface between the nose
and upper lip.
• Deformities of joints, limbs and fingers
• Slow physical growth before and after
• Vision difficulties or hearing problems
• Small head circumference and brain
• Heart defects and problems with
kidneys and bones
Problems with the brain and central
nervous system may include:
• Poor coordination or balance
• Intellectual disability, learning
disorders and delayed development
(not reaching milestones at an
• Poor memory
• Trouble with attention and with
• Difficulty with reasoning and problem-
• Difficulty identifying consequences of
• Poor judgment skills
• Jitteriness or hyperactivity
• Rapidly changing moods
Social and behavioural problems
• Problems in functioning, coping and
interacting with others
• Difficulty in school
• Trouble getting along with others
• Poor social skills
• Trouble adapting to change or switching
from one task to another
• Problems with behaviour and impulse
• Poor concept of time
• Problems staying on task
• Difficulty planning or working toward
In closing, there is no safe amount of alcohol consumption for pregnant women, rather prevention is safer. If possible refrain from alcohol consumption during pregnancy as one is never sure about the extent of damage it can cause to the fetus. If the fetus has been exposed to alcohol, seek advice from a medical professional as early detection may have a better outcome on the lifelong functioning of the child.